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vice president of customer solutions and support. “The truck automatically takes them to the next pick face.” Options such as zoning and positioning give operators a more efficient way to get to the next pick, making it easier for them to focus on their picking, not where they are within the facility or aisle. The company is working to make its materials handling equipment even smarter. At the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), a team of Raymond Corporation-funded researchers is looking at how fork truck groups can work together in autonomous ways to complete a set of tasks. “We’re focusing on localization and navigation—sensors and sensing equipment so a vehicle knows where it is, where other vehicles are, and how it will avoid vehicles and make decisions along the way to reach its destination,” says Michael Kuhl, professor of industrial and systems engineering. The industry needs this type of research among different equipment providers, as well. “There’s little inter- operability between manufacturers,” notes Sharma of Interact Analysis. “A forklift from one company can’t yet talk to a picker from another and coordinate. The world needs more partnerships between industry vendors.” Perhaps that will be the next big innovation. n
hires, the firm discovered that new people were lifting at a rate that was four times faster. They were, in fact, working as fast as they could to get a permanent position. But when some felt they were failing or were afraid of getting hurt, they quit. StrongArm recommended letting trainees learn and improve at a slower pace. “On one side of the warehouse, we had a much slower-running conveyor belt that enabled new hires to get a feel for tasks,” Petterson says. “Then slowly, we ratcheted that up until the safety scores of the group leveled off to a safe point.” As a result, the company helped ease its worker shortage by increasing new hire retention by 45% while reducing injury rates.
Other low-tech innovations include plastic-molded products such as totes, containers, and pallets that feature consistent dimensions so they integrate easily with high-speed systems. ORBIS Corporation’s new Odyssey plastic pallets, for example, are designed for newer racking systems. “Rackable plastic pallets optimize storage and offer dimensional consistency for automated equipment, but they also help reduce product damage because there are no nails poking out or chipped corners that cause products to fall off,” says Alex Hempel, the company’s senior director, retail supply chain. They also offer a more sustainable alternative to wooden pallets.
At The Raymond Corporation, forklifts are evolving in ways that allow pickers to improve picking efficiency and accuracy. “We’re adding features that incorporate the truck into the warehouse management system so the operator doesn’t have to figure out where to go next,” says David Norton,
When industrial safety wearables company StrongArm Technologies noticed that 60% of a client’s inexperienced peak-season warehouse workers left their jobs or were terminated within the first 90 days, they examined the wearables data for insights. “While the assumption was that these people were not cut out for this work, we saw the complete opposite,” says Sean Petterson, CEO and founder. By comparing pick data information from tenured workers to that of the new
Shipping and mailing company Pitney Bowes entered a robots-as-a-service deal with Ambi Robotics to add more than 60 robots to its e-commerce hubs across the country.
92 Inbound Logistics • May 2022
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